As college students across the country report increased anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater is making mental health a top priority.
That means making sure Warhawks receive exceptional care so they remain healthy, stay enrolled and continue on a path to graduation. And, as a university with strong teacher education roots, it means training the next generation of highly skilled psychologists and mental health counselors.
University Health and Counseling Services has been investing time and resources to accomplish those goals — and the efforts have now garnered national recognition.
UW-Whitewater has become the only university besides UW-Madison in Wisconsin to earn American Psychological Association accreditation for its doctoral psychology internship program.
“The recognition — the highest in the country for this program — speaks to the quality of services provided at the counseling center,” said Jim Freiburger, psychologist and executive director. “We’re teaching students to be on the cutting edge of counseling, using evidence-based practices.”
Through the program, doctoral psychology interns work alongside senior staff members 40 hours per week over the course of one year. They learn theory and research but also assist with actual cases, including crisis intervention, individual, group, and couples counseling and outreach and awareness activities.
“We’re committed to providing a broad training experience,” said Terri DeWalt, psychologist and director of training. “We provide a nurturing environment in which we expect interns to grow into confident, competent, ethical psychologists who are able to empower their clients and colleagues.”
In its report on UW-Whitewater’s program, APA reviewers noted that “current and alumni interns were overwhelmingly enthusiastic about their training experiences, including a climate of inclusion and support…. The commitments to student development and success and enhanced understanding of and responsiveness to diversity were very evident.”
While the accreditation technically applies to the doctoral internship program, DeWalt said students in the master’s-level internship program are receiving the same exceptional experience.
“Our senior staff and interns care deeply about the students we care for at UW-Whitewater, and our patient surveys show just how critical counseling is to student success,” she said.
In the 2018-19 academic year, students who received counseling at UHCS said it helped with academic performance and helped them stay in school.
“We’re proud to be part of this campus and community,” Freiburger said. “Student success is a university-wide effort, and we collaborate with many areas, including housing, university police and the Center for Students with Disabilities, to name a few. Together, we help support and guide students so they have the tools to succeed in their academics and in life.”